Being Flogged on my Blog

This hasn’t happened to me before, but recently I stumbled across a blog on the secret lives of well known British and Hollywood actors posted on my blog site – except it wasn’t from me! It was an article about the private and somewhat seedy lives of Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh and others in their cohort. On closer inspection, the article seemed to be a machine-generated “cut and paste job,” taking strings of data from or about this rather poorly rated (on Goodreads) book titled Damn you, Scarlett O’Hara: The Private Lives of Vivien Leigh and Lawrence Olivier by Darwin Porter and Roy Moseley and creating some sort of a review, replete with pictures, video and sub headings. The sentence structure was noticeably garbled and the only things that stuck out were the juicy references to some of the salacious acts these famous actors had indulged in. The title of the blog was even more ridiculous: How To Begin a Writing Career.

I soon discovered that the imposter had not only snapped this ridiculous article on my property but he (or she) had changed my passwords and shut me out of my own site, a site I had cultivated over many years as a place for well thought out articles and book reviews, with no advertizing to support it; it had been my volunteer contribution to literature, and now it was despoiled.

Several thoughts ran through my head. First, I felt violated. I thought that the authors of this book were taking cheap cracks at promoting their work via sites that featured quality reviews and articles. But then I also wondered: were the perpetrators the authors of this book themselves or was it someone who had decided to play a trick on me? Has anyone taken machine-assembled reviews of my books and plastered on them on other blog sites to my discredit? There were embedded links in the article that suggested some advertising of essay writing services that I dared not click onto lest I be taken to another limbo. I recalled seeing these links on another syndicated news site where these “floggers,” as I have labeled them, had shown up and practically overrun the site with their gobbledygook, rendering that site unworkable and unsuitable for anyone looking for credible editorial. I had protested to that site’s owner, and like Jesus driving the greedy merchants from the temple, he reacted and that site has now been (almost) cleaned up. And now, were the floggers visiting me in revenge? I also looked at the positive side: someone must be reading my articles otherwise I couldn’t have become a target. The only comfort I could take from this episode was to conclude that anyone familiar with my writing would quickly recognize that even though I am a colonial with a different language rhythm, I do not write broken English. I hoped my readers would ignore this crap.

Whatever the motive, a few facts stand out for me. (1) If floggers are able to make a living from this activity, they must indeed be selling to a low level of reading populace (2) If people are actually reading this stuff they must be reading for keywords and not for structure, coherence of thought, and elegance of language (3) If there is no constant vigilance, we will let the internet sink into a Tower of Babel, allowing for the privateers who have being trying to control it for a long time have their proof that gated communities work best.

As for me, my site was cleaned up, passwords restored and tightened into unbreakable combinations. and I will continue to seek quality in my writing and send a message to the floggers in a couple of keywords that they will surely recognize: “Up Yours!”

Who is reading our blog posts?

My work is syndicated on a few blog sites;, and on those that provide statistics of readership, it’s great to see the number of “reads” soar from time to time when an article catches the zeitgeist.

I tried to analyze these numbers and soon discovered that except in a few cases, where a geographic breakdown is provided as to where these reads are coming from, all you get is a flat number of reads per article. Since these sites are also heavily into banner advertizing to earn their income, one never knows whether the reader is reading your article or the banner ad, especially when there is a snazzy car, a scantily dressed woman or a movie trailer on those sidelines.

Then I began to notice another phenomenon (which I have written about in a previous article), and that is the presence of bots that read certain keywords of your article, associate them with an advertisement of one of their clients, and promptly post a comment (bearing very little relation to your topic) on your article with a link to a website promoting their client’s product. In recent times, essay writing services are very popular, services that write your exam essays and help you cheat the academic system of selection. Let’s not get into the morality of this form of advertizing, I covered it already in that previous article. Suffice to say that the next time I see a spike in the number of reads to my article, am I to infer that it is due to a genuine interest by readers, or that an army of bots, selling competing products, are waging a war for prominence over the battlefield of my article?

How does one rid oneself of this menace? Some use captchas, but simple captchas can be circumvented pretty easily, and the harder ones are so visually difficult for us humans to read that they defeat the purpose of engaging readers in a debate, for readers quit in frustration and never bother to post a comment because that captcha stopped them dead in their tracks. And even if we find a solution that is somewhere in the middle, what’s to prevent these bots being managed by a smart outsourced company in a low-income country that has a few lowly paid employees circumventing the captchas on posts worth preying on? Give bot management to the article posters themselves? This might work better, for a writer whose article comments are routed to her e-mail address, is alerted every time a comment is posted; she could quickly delete the bot-generated ones that are so blatantly obvious for their poor grammar and nonsensical context. This might be like killing mosquitoes, you never quite get them all, but over time they decline. And you get the satisfaction of having killed some of these pests—but you are still likely to be bitten anyway. Have a moderator filter all comments? An added expense, and who pays for the cost of the moderator?

This is a problem of our times, and the cost of online blog syndication. I noticed that even Flikr now inserts commercials in-between the feed of my photo album pictures. Alas, there is no escape from the almighty advertiser who pays for all our free activity online and extracts our secrets in return! If you want the fame and coverage, then pay for the crap that comes with it, is what I have concluded. I also trust that astute readers can differentiate bot-created comments from real ones and will ignore the former as background noise; and that bot activity will ultimately provoke content site owners to clean up their act or have their sites sink in the ranking of quality places to visit.

That still does not prevent me from dreaming of what I would do if I come face to face to face with a bot in a dark alley one day! Or do bots only lurk on the Internet?

From writing, to publishing, to being read – a long journey

Books take a long time to be born, we know that. I’ve had stories published after 30 years. Two of my novels took seven years between their writing and their publication. My other books have averaged three to four years in that pipeline. That is usually par for the course if one is not writing pulp fiction. But I’ve faced another situation which I thought of writing about: where a book can take also as long as the aforementioned publishing cycle between being purchased and being read by a reader.

I have often heard, years after I signed a book at a reading for an avid reader who was ga-ga at the time, that “Oh yes, your book, hmm…it’s still in my reading pile.” Another reader wrote to me the minute she received her copy, saying she was diving straight into it that evening; when I discreetly inquired a few months later, she was still reading my book, along with a dozen others – apparently she reads books in batches, and mine was in the latest batch of 12. Yet another reader has read up to page 51 of one of my books she started in 2009; this notification is sitting for the whole world to see up on Goodreads – I’d like to think it’s because she’s forgotten she has a Goodreads account and not because my book sucks! And others buy books as gifts, collectibles, and trophies, with no intention of ever reading them.

I can understand why books are given out for free in copious quantities. It is because the traditional pipeline, where you actually purchase a copy, does not fetch enough readers, we are told. But the free channel is worse when it comes to actual readers per freebie. I went up on Wattpad two years ago and posted 12 of my already published stories on that burgeoning forum. I was pleased with the result: I have received tons of good comments, one negative comment, many followers, and 220,000 “reads” as of today. But on closer inspection, I see the “fall off” rate: 122K reads for the opening Foreword, and the balance 98K is split on a declining scale between 20K reads for the first story and 5K reads for the last story. Am I to infer from this statistic that of the 220,000 only 5,000 finished what they started? It also makes me wonder whether I am indeed writing crap…

I can also understand why people blog: under the forlorn hope that they are “instantly read and permanently remembered,” and that the dreaded long tail, i.e. from writing to publishing to being read, has been finally eliminated.  I hope that is indeed the case and not the starker one of “instantly read and instantly forgotten,” or worse yet, “flittingly seen and permanently drowned” in the deluge of content constantly washing up on our computers.

There is no solution to being read faster in a universe deluged in print matter. It is unfortunate that the last two generations have produced a disproportionately higher number of writers while they have taken out a vast number of readers due to the increasing time/life crunch. If serious writers continue to write, they must look to the future and believe that they are writing for posthumous recognition, for a time when people will be curious to learn more about our present Age of Expression (or is it the Age of Narcissism?)

And I wonder how the hierarchy of books would be re-ordered if we stopped counting “best-sellers” and counted “most-read” instead?

Your writer’s story – different to the one you imagined

Our times are generating many more writers than demand can bear. This is due to better education, improved health and longevity, technology, inflated egos in the age of “me first,” and due to our eternal quest for immortality. This ambition to be a writer begins in our formative years and is inspired by our favourite writers. As a teenager, I was greatly influenced by Greene, Steinbeck and Hemingway; I dreamt of sending manuscripts out into the world where they would become best-sellers and make me a reclusive millionaire. I would hide out in some remote island and submit more manuscripts and continue to dazzle the world with my brilliance until I was invited to a cold capital in Europe to accept the Nobel Prize. And I would refuse that honour, making me an enigmatic figure like Jean-Paul Sartre, Boris Pasternak or J.D. Salinger. It was nice to dream!

The reality, even back then, was different. I had chosen to gloss over the private demons my literary heroes had to overcome in order to achieve their fame: dual lives, alcoholism, drug addiction, persecution, shell-shock (called PTSD today), hypertension, depression, divorce, estrangement, chronic pain, and suicide staring out of the barrel of a gun. Not forgetting the early struggles with rejection and penury that they each triumphed over. These trials gave impetus to their work and are mentioned only in discreet biographies, not on the glossy covers of their books.

My writer’s story turned out differently to my idealized dream. For instance, I didn’t imagine that after hacking away at this craft in my early twenties in a developing country where English was a second language, and after having a handful of stories published, I would pack up my authorly tools and try something easier to earn a living – Greene, Steinbeck et al, be damned! I never realized that the “other living” would come so easily, and earn such a handsome income, that I wouldn’t bother with the writing game again for another twenty years. I didn’t realize that it would be the curse of “guilt” that would bring me back to reopen the dusty toolbox and start to catch up to where the literary world had evolved in the intervening years.

Once “Take Two” started however, the stories and novels came easily, and are likely to continue into the future, health permitting. It was like a dam had burst and all that had been stored for years just gushed out. But the publishing landscape had changed, drastically. Prizes sold books now. And the prize money was cornered among the “1% of the 1%” in the literary hierarchy. There was no middle class in publishing anymore – there was a huge gulf between self-published and best-seller, and the only way to bridge the two was with a stroke of luck.

But with every closing door there were others opening. There were now many ways in which to be published, I discovered, thanks to evolving technology that had finally demolished the dominant publishing model of eons, which was: publish a large quantity of paper books on ancient printing presses until unit costs become affordable, ship them across the land in trucks into stores that can’t keep track of them, receive most of them back after awhile to be shredded, then start the cycle again, and hope like hell that grants institutions continue to support this inefficiency in the interest of promoting the arts. That was the model under which my heroes had thrived, and now it was dying, supplanted by DIY publishing, POD, electronic media, subscriptions services, free story sites, social media, and blogs like the one you are reading. And my heroes were dead too.

I enthusiastically tried all the models available, traditional and new, and discovered that they all had their pros and cons, but as their readerships’ were distinct, this lack of homogeneity helped plaster me all over the map, assuaging my guilt for having neglected “the gift.” There was also no way I could hide out in a remote island, I realized;  I had to be front and centre in the global public domain (a.k.a. the Internet, which also never existed during the time of my literary heroes) selling my wares like a shoe salesman.  I even started a small publishing house, using the new technology, and have helped bring other writers into print, ones who may have been sitting for years in the slush piles of the Big Five ( or is it Four, now – hard to keep track!). The joy of bringing others’ work into the world, to watch them stand on the podium reading from their debut novel at their book’s launch gives me immense satisfaction. I was doing my bit to restore the middle class in publishing. And I finally faced the darker side too: the rejection, the shrunken revenue streams, the even further shrunken attention spans, and the need for that other source of income to fuel this one. None of this had been part of my teenage dream.

And so I have accepted that my writer’s story is different from the one I had visualized in my youth– creative visualizers, take note: it doesn’t always turn out the way you paint it in your mind. But it can be a damn sight more interesting and surprising. Why go on a trip where every stopover is carefully laid out, predictable and boring? Where would the thrill of the unexpected lie? Isn’t that what we try to create in our work – the unexpected?

So dear Reader, what was your writer’s dream, and how did it pan out?

A Writer’s Repeating Themes

I have been writing a blog for over five years, so I took the time to pause and review what I had written. I have written over 180 articles, averaging three a month, on a variety of subjects, all of which I thought were quite original and topical at the time. But when I re•read them, some key themes kept appearing and re•appearing. My articles seemed to fall into the following broad categories:

1)      The Writing Life, its rewards and travails

2)      Politics & Society, especially an exploration of the parts that do not work

3)      Business Life, its necessity and its incompleteness

4)      Travel

5)      Social Media, its opportunities and pitfalls

6)      Life Stages

So, that’s it really. One hundred and eighty articles circling around six themes. I could have written six large essays, one on each of the topics, and have had my say, packed my pen, and gone fishing. Instead, I circled around pet peeves, unearthing new material and coming at them from different angles each time, a veritable dog with a bone, or six of them.

Is this what most writers do? Exorcise their ghosts by repeatedly confronting them, or do they stand on a platform and make their point until people turn a blind eye and a deaf ear? Dickens returned to the nemesis of his childhood, the workhouse, time and time again; Twain sailed the Mississippi back and forth; Hemingway confronted death not only in the afternoon but everywhere and all the time until the last instant of his life; Lawrence was trapped in the sex act; and Joyce walked the streets of Dublin even when he no longer lived there.

This question went through my mind as I pored over my 180 articles, thinking of the time and effort that had gone into writing them. I know that thousands of readers have read them, if I can trust the tracking meters on all the sites I had them posted on. But did anyone change their life as a result of these articles? Did anyone even say, “Ah, ha!” That, I will never know. All I know is that my life stayed in balance for having written them, perhaps it even changed for the better, when I realized that I could not change the world but could change myself and accept the unchangeable.

So that’s it, I concluded: I was not writing for an audience, I was writing for my own therapy and survival. These themes were important to me and still are; that’s why I keep returning to them time and time again. And in rereading them, I have come to appreciate them even more. The issues I have been absorbed with are unsolvable and need to be confronted in their many guises. The more aggressive minded may join political organizations, non•profit organizations and/or service clubs to deal with matters that are important to them, matters that will prevail long after the activists have shuffled off this mortal coil. But like them, the writer too shows his activism by continuing to write about those unsolvable issues that matter most to him. The act of confronting them is the sign of never giving up. To give up is to die.

Okay, back to the grind. What shall I write about next? Should it be on the writing life, or politics and society, or business life….?

 

Make your world – by Linda LaRoche

This is the last of Linda’s guest contributions, a topic near and dear to me, as I drown in regurgitated news items sent to me via social media and thirst for original insights that make us progress as a species. Thank you, Linda for joining my blog. Shane

Make your world • by Linda LaRoche

This week I had a former student ask me if he could use the title of my book. I pointed out how as a native•English speaker, he could come up with his own title. I neglected to point out that I’ve had a copyright on it with the Library of Congress since 2008. As an exercise in my creative writing class on characterization, I read students a sample paragraph and asked them to write on the facial features of a character they know well. Some choose to use the same words in the same context I had read aloud. The problem is, we tend to be blind to our own mistakes — and without a teacher or an editor, we keep making the same ones over again!
According to the Global Language Monitor, published May 18, 2011, there are over one million words in the English language. And while I understand that many works of art are derivative, such as a blog, where we link to one another, commenting on something that has been said or done by someone else, adding our bit of wisdom, but borrowing from one another, I ask– where is original thought?
Art is a noble quest. I know a few writers who won’t read while they in are in a writing mode just so they can be assured that their words are uniquely their own. I’m a believer that as part of the race of man we share some of the same creative ideas on the spiritual plane. But how we choose to interpret what is in us makes us distinct and adds style. Good writing involves a love of language. Using your own words comes down to original thought. A thought is tied to a string of personal memories, biased and uniquely yours: original in every sense. And isn’t creativity whereby a person creates something new from what is inside them?
It takes work to reconsider what you are trying to say. It involves the need to improve the content of your material, looking for a whole new aspect of the issue, and in the end, to express it in a fresh way. The Creator has a Master Plan
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkVLS6muw1k

Those who say “yes” have more fun – by Linda La Roche

This is the second of Linda’s posts • for those who may be fearful of taking the leap into writing. Enjoy! Shane


Those who say “yes” have more fun • by Linda La Roche
August 11, 2011

How do we make that scary leap from thinking about writing to actually doing it?

Now, I cannot claim to be a total expert on this. There are many things that I’d like to do/am in the process of doing that may never fall under the done heading. Hiking in Nepal, taking flying lessons, and competing in a triathlon to name a few. However, I do have a decent track record of actually completing a good number of the seemingly improbable things that I set out to do. Here’s what has worked for me:

Write it down, and start mapping your path
A jump•start is by putting pen to paper as one of the best ways to make things happen. It’ll start to seem realistic when you look at it on paper. Taking it further helps even more; research, and start compiling the information that will bridge the gap between what’s inside your head and what’s not.

Blast it
Tell everybody about it! Anybody worth knowing will be excited for you and feed your enthusiasm. Also, you’ll be a less likely to back out of your plan because everyone you know will be asking you about it. Shame can be a great motivator.

Spend money on it
Most will be exponentially more likely to complete a goal that they spend money on. It’s a great step towards getting there.

Make it irreversible
Now that you’re making tendrils of progress, keep going. When you’re really serious about something and you know intuitively, that it’s the right choice, don’t allow yourself the luxury of a backup plan. I once bought a one•way, non•refundable ticket to Europe expecting to stay six months and instead it turned into three years. Be courageous! By putting yourself at the mercy of fate you are going to have so much fun!

Doing begets more doing
I’ve found that action begets more action. Once you’ve published your novella, you know that you are capable of moving to Hong Kong on your own, or learning to speak Hindi, and you can’t be deterred from starting an import business–all these things are totally doable, you go•getter, you!

Freelance writer, Linda LaRoche teaches Creative Writing and Blogging at College of Southern Nevada and continuing education classes at UNLV. Her last two multi•cultural novels and collection of short stories portray a heartfelt tale of liberation, desperation, and the grip of love.
Find out more by visiting: http://www.lindalaroche.com/blog
And join the discussion on her blog, the Quill.

No two ways about it – by Linda LaRoche

This week I am featuring guest blogger, Linda LaRoche, an author and editor who teaches Creative Writing and Blogging at College of Southern Nevada. Linda shares my zest for travel and for getting to the heart of why we write. I hope you enjoy her blog and welcome your comments
Happy reading!
Shane


No two ways about it
February 8, 2011
In my classes I was recently asked two questions, “When did you know you were a writer?” And, “Is that all you do, write?” They are identity questions, self•worth questions, fulfillment and personal freedom questions–a nascent creative soul’s penetrating questions. And loaded into the questions seem to be an underlining ground•zero that tethers the one asked to a primary sense of identity— something presumably more real, more acceptable, more common, much more stable. To be a loan officer, you apply for the job and show up every day for work; to be a writer, you have to know –via, perhaps, some mystical experience – that you’re a writer.

You are a writer when you are writing. I know it sounds simplistic, yet it is true. Do not roll your eyes, reader, as if I’ve heard that one before. As we evolve in our work lives, piecing together various kinds of employment to earn money, step•by•step nudging out the non•writing stuff and making the writing central (or at least that which is writing•related), I find it to be even more starkly true: I am not a writer when I am editing or critiquing someone else’s work, or composing social media articles. I am not a writer when I am nibbling on wine and cheese at a fashionable literary event. I am not a writer when I am teaching, i.e. talking about craft and helping others with theirs. I am not a writer when I am tweeting other writers or keeping up on my self•promotion, or reading literary blogs. I am not a writer when I am on a search for a new book to read or when I am drinking coffee in Starbucks leafing through the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com. I know I am a writer when I am writing. When I am working with words, when I am making ideas and characters come to life with written language. When I am laying out the pages on the desk and taking my blue sharpie to chunks of text that I know don’t work in the story, when I lose myself and forget basics like the hour, eating, brushing my hair, while typing a paragraph where something terrible, or euphoric, or quietly illuminating is happening. This may sound naïve but I feel strongly that I must be honest; I must be writing to be a writer. Otherwise, I feel like a fraud. Even if it’s just an hour because that’s all there’s time for, or even if I’ve been working on the same damn narrative arc problem in a short story for weeks, I know that I cannot stand in front of either my own mirror or even in front of you, dear inquirer, and exhort you to “show, don’t tell” or “up the emotional stakes” or instruct you to “live your passion” if I am not myself at the writing desk, messing with words, living in the trenches and heights of which I speak.

That is how it feels to be a writer; nothing more, nothing less. It’s a full•time job, anything else distracts from it. I’ve had my share of work that has taken me away from writing, and it may not be all I do, but it’s my priority in life, and the secret to being a writer is to not stop writing and to show up for work.

Freelance writer, Linda LaRoche teaches Creative Writing and Blogging at College of Southern Nevada and continuing education classes at UNLV. Her last two multi•cultural novels and collection of short stories portray a heartfelt tale of liberation, desperation, and the grip of love.
Find out more by visiting:
http://www.lindalaroche.com/blog
And join the discussion on her blog, the Quill

Standing on the Edge, Again

I recently bought a small place back in the Big Smoke. A bold move for a guy with indeterminate income who had started to get comfortable in semi•retirement, writing books and playing guitar in his small town by the lake. I will have to work again – I mean, really work – to afford it all, with a hovering recession and high unemployment that refuses to go away as my travelling companions. In exchange, I would be opened to the attractions and distractions that the city would offer: theatre, art, literary events, traffic, rent•a•bike, smog and crime. And I would stand once more at a window on the larger world of diverse and displaced people struggling to make it in their new home, just like I did, oh so many years ago.

I remember when I first “retired” from writing and moved abroad, in my early twenties, because at that time all the stories of my tender life experience had been written and I needed new fodder. I never thought that I would ever write again. I wanted to “do” not “dream.” The next 20 years of “doing” and screwing up gave me enough for a truckload of books and stories, but now that conduit too has slowed to a trickle. The time to hunt has begun again; the new harvest, or gathering, will have to follow at a later date. Life, it seems, full of new beginnings. What is the alternative? An ending? The END?

But now there are those reports of the “throwaway glass condos” springing up all over Toronto, buildings that are energy efficient yet not durable in the long term. Have I picked myself one of these lemons? Should I have stayed put in my cottage by the lake and buried my money under a mattress to escape the stock market’s never ending case of the hiccups? Am I suffering from buyer’s remorse? Am I scared of change, of the unknown? Isn’t life all about surprises? Couldn’t just the next medical check•up spring a surprise?

They say that growth happens on the edge, not in the comfort zone, and I am deliberately placing myself on the edge again I realize, hoping that it would bring me raw material for the next round of stories, whether that even includes personal loss. Unlike my last “retirement”, my life span is a lot shorter now, so I can’t afford another 20 years of “doing” before the next harvest of experiences. I am going to have to gather as I do and hope that the finished material falls into a coherent whole. Writing on the go will also help me deal with the fear of taking the plunge again.

Stepping off edges doesn’t get easier with age; on the contrary, it’s bloody scary, but exhilarating! What will I attempt next? Russian Roulette? Or bungee jumping off the CN Tower?

New Year Resolutions – short and sweet

On a beach in a Caribbean island, I ran over my usual list of New Year resolutions: manage the weight, exercise regularly, save money, save the trees, go e•books, write more, read more, work less, drink less, shamelessly self promote, keep building my online platform etc., etc., etc.

As nudists on the adjacent beach strutted their stuff, ate and drank copiously, and engaged in a relentless flesh•hunt, I was seeking the austere life. I did not stop with my usual list of resolutions this time either. I went deeper: talk•less, desire less, listen more, dream more, blog only about things that matter, take more risks, make more mistakes (i.e. learn more lessons). I was really getting going here. And there was more to come: open the heart, give until it hurts, burn the writing that does not help humanity, endure more dark nights of the soul – oh boy, and I hadn’t even had a margarita yet. By this time, the sun was high, the nudists roasted and soused, and there was I, a noble idiot, digging myself into the largest hole of self denial, when all about me others were just “havin’ a good tyme, man!”

The solitary nature of my occupation came home to me, especially amidst this sea of humanity that had come to the Caribbean to chill out and be brainless for a short time. As I walked the beach, I scanned for what people were reading. There was one e•reader amidst the variety of paperback genre novels (Dan Brown was still going strong), spread out on deck chairs; their owners were either lapping up the sun with their eyes shut and their reading material abandoned, or dousing themselves in the ocean, or helping themselves to their umpteenth dirty banana (a cocktail) for the day. There was no evidence of literary fiction on this beach.

“Want ganja, man?” the local beachcomber asked me. “No,” I replied. “How about a girl?” “No!” I said. “Want a ride in my canoe?” He kept pace with me, like a barnacle on a boat. “No, I can’t swim.” “How about some fun?” “What’s that?” I asked. “Ganja, girl and canoe – with a life vest,” he replied, looking concerned, “you looking too serious, man.” “I write books,” I clarified. A wide grin broke on his face, “Ah that explains it, man – you loco, right?” “Right,” I said, and left him to find a more interested customer.

The solitary resolution that I am sticking to since returning from this beach holiday does not resemble any of my perennials. I don’t have to worry about those mainstays—they will get done—they are second nature to me now. And those newer, harder items, like spending more dark night with my soul etc., have been scrapped as well. My only resolution since returning from Jamaica is “Get a life, man!”